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Franconia (German: Franken) is a region in Germany, characterised by its East Franconian culture and dialects. It commonly refers to the eastern part of the historical Franconian stem duchy, mainly represented by the modern Bavarian administrative districts of Lower, Middle, and Upper Franconia. The adjacent northeastern parts of the Heilbronn-Franken region in Baden-Württemberg, parts of Thuringia south of the Rennsteig ridge, and small parts of Hesse also count as Franconian regions.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Geography
- 3 History
- 4 Contemporary Franconia
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The German name for Franconia, Franken, comes from the dative plural form of Franke, a member of the Germanic tribe known as the Franks. The onomatologists largely follow the reference book compiled by early medieval scholar, Saint Isidore of Seville, (c. 560–636) and state that the name derives from an Indo-Germanic root, *(s)p(h)ereg- ("avaricious" or "ferocious"). This syllable occurs in the Middle Dutch vrac, "avaricious", and old Norwegian frakkr, "quick, bold", and means something like "brave, daring, courageous". According to this the Franks were thus the "brave ones", "courageous ones" or "audacious ones". From the 9th century the geographical name no longer referred to the whole of France, but increasingly to the region along the River Main, where the name finally stuck.
The German word frank in the sense of "free" is, by contrast, not an original description of the Franks, but emerged at the time of the Merovingians in the Romanised principality of the Franks. Not until the 15th century was the German word frei ("free") borrowed from the French.
The Franconian lands lie principally in Bavaria, north and south of the winding Main River, which together with the left (southern) Regnitz tributary, including its Rednitz and Pegnitz headstreams, drains most parts of Franconia. Other large rivers include the upper Werra in Thuringia and the Tauber, as well as the upper Jagst and Kocher streams in the west, both right tributaries of the Neckar. In southern Middle Franconia, the Altmühl flows towards the Danube; the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal crosses the European Watershed. The artificial Franconian Lake District has become a popular destination for day-trippers and tourists.
The landscape is characterized by numerous Mittelgebirge ranges of the German Central Uplands. The Western natural border of Franconia is formed by the Spessart and Rhön Mountains, separating it from the former Rhenish Franconian lands around Aschaffenburg (officially part of Lower Franconia), whose inhabitants speak Hessian dialects. To the north rise the Rennsteig ridge of the Thuringian Forest, the Thuringian Highland and the Franconian Forest, the border with the Upper Saxon lands of Thuringia. The Franconian lands include the present-day South Thuringian districts Schmalkalden-Meiningen, Hildburghausen and Sonneberg, the historical Gau of Grabfeld held by the House of Henneberg from the 11th century and later part of the Wettin duchy of Saxe-Meiningen.
In the east, the Fichtelgebirge leads to Vogtland, Bohemian Egerland (Chebsko) in the Czech Republic, and the Bavarian Upper Palatinate. The hills of the Franconian Jura in the south mark the border with the Upper Bavarian region (Altbayern), historical Swabia, and the Danube basin. The northern parts of the Upper Bavarian Eichstätt District, territory of the historical Bishopric of Eichstätt, are also counted as part of Franconia.
In the west, Franconia proper comprises the Tauberfranken region along the Tauber River, which As of 2014[update] is largely part of the Main-Tauber-Kreis in Baden-Württemberg. The state's larger Heilbronn-Franken region also includes the adjacent Hohenlohe and Schwäbisch Hall Districts. In the city of Heilbronn, beyond the Haller Ebene plateau, South Franconian dialects are spoken. Furthermore, in those easternmost parts of the Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis which had formerly belonged to the Bishopric of Würzburg, the inhabitants have preserved a Franconian identity. Franconian areas in East Hesse along Spessart and Rhön comprise Gersfeld and Ehrenberg.
The two largest cities of Franconia are Nuremberg and Würzburg. Though located on the southeastern periphery of the area, the Nuremberg metropolitan area is often identified[by whom?] as the economic and cultural centre of Franconia. Further cities in Bavarian Franconia include Fürth, Erlangen, Bayreuth, Bamberg, Aschaffenburg, Schweinfurt, Hof, Coburg, Ansbach and Schwabach. The major (East) Franconian towns in Baden-Württemberg are Schwäbisch Hall on the Kocher—the Imperial City declared itself "Swabian" in 1442—and Crailsheim on the Jagst River, the main towns in Thuringia are Suhl and Meiningen.
Rothenburg is one of the best known towns in Franconia
Walberla in Franconia
Water wheel at the Regnitz
Franconia may be distinguished from the regions that surround it by its peculiar historical factors and its cultural and especially linguistic characteristics, but it is not a political entity with a fixed or tightly defined area. As a result, it is debated whether some areas belong to Franconia or not. Pointers to a more precise definition of Franconia's boundaries include: the territories covered by the former Duchy of Franconia and former Franconian Circle, the range of the East Franconian dialect group, the common culture and history of the region and the use of the Franconian Rake on coats of arms, flags and seals. However, a sense of popular consciousness of being Franconian is only detectable from the 19th century onwards, which is why the circumstances of the emergence of a Frankish identity are disputed. Franconia has many cultural peculiarities which have been adopted from other regions and further developed.
The following regions are counted as part of Franconia today: the Bavarian provinces of Lower Franconia, Upper Franconia and Middle Franconia, the municipality of Pyrbaum in the county of Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, the northwestern part of the Upper Bavarian county of Eichstätt (covering the same area as the old county of Alt-Eichstätt), the East Franconian counties of South Thuringia, parts of Fulda and the Odenwaldkreis in Hesse, the Baden-Württemberg regions of Tauber Franconia and Hohenlohe as well as the region around the Badenian Buchen.
In individual cases the membership of some areas is disputed. These include the Bavarian language area of Alt-Eichstätt and the Hessian-speaking region around Aschaffenburg, which was never part of the Franconian Imperial Circle. The affiliation of the city of Heilbronn, whose inhabitants do not call themselves Franks, is also controversial. Moreover, the sense of belonging to Franconia in the Frankish-speaking areas of Upper Palatinate, South Thuringia and Hesse is sometimes less marked.
The region of Franconia is divided among the states of Hesse, Thuringia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. The largest part of Franconia, both by population and area, belongs to the Free State of Bavaria and is divided into the three provinces (Regierungsbezirke) of Middle Franconia (capital: Ansbach), Upper Franconia (capital: Bayreuth) and Lower Franconia (capital: Würzburg). The name of these provinces, as in the case of Upper and Lower Bavaria, refers to their situation with respect to the River Main. Thuse Upper Franconia lies on the upper reaches of the river, Lower Franconia on its lower reaches and Middle Franconia lies in between, although the Main does not flow through Middle Franconia itself. Where the boundaries of these three provinces meet (the 'tripoint') is the Dreifrankenstein ("Three Franconias Rock"). Small parts of Franconia also belong to the provinces of Upper Palatinate and Upper Bavaria.
The Franconian territories of Baden-Württemberg are the regions of Tauber Franconia and Hohenlohe, which belong to the Heilbronn-Franconia Region with its office in Heilbronn and are part of the Stuttgart Region, and the area around the Badenian Buchen in the Rhein-Neckar Region. The Franconian parts of Thuringia (Henneberg Franconia) lie within the Southwest Thuringia Planning Region. The Franconian regions in Hesse form the smaller parts of the counties of Fulda (Kassel province) and the Odenwaldkreis (Darmstadt province), or lie on the border with Bavaria or Thuringia.
Rivers and lakes
The two most important rivers of the region are the Main and its primary tributary, the Regnitz. The tributaries of these two rivers in Franconia are the Tauber, Pegnitz, Rednitz and Franconian Saale. Other major rivers in the region are the Jagst and Kocher in Hohenlohe-Franconia, which empty into the Neckar north of Heilbronn in Baden-Württemberg, the Altmühl and the Wörnitz in Middle Franconia, both tributaries of the Danube, and the upper and middle reaches of the Werra, the right-hand headstream of the Weser. In the northeast of Upper Franconia rise two left-hand tributaries of the Elbe: the Saxon Saale and the Eger.
The Main-Danube Canal connects the Main and Danube across Franconia, running from Bamberg via Nuremberg to Kelheim. It thus complements the Rhine, Main and Danube, helping to ensure a continuous navigable waterway between the North Sea and the Black Sea. In Franconia, there are only a few, often very small, natural lakes. This is due to fact that most natural lakes in Germany are glacial or volcanic in origin, and Franconia escaped both influences in recent earth history. Among the largest waterbodies are reservoirs, which are mostly used as water reserves for the relatively dry landscapes of Franconia. These includes the waters of the Franconian Lake District, which was established in the 1970s and is also a tourist attraction. The heart of these lakes is the Großer Brombachsee, which has an area of 8.7 km² and is thus the largest waterbody in Franconia by surface area.
Hills, mountains and plains
Several Central Upland ranges dominate the Franconian countryside. In the southeast,Franconia is shielded from the rest of Bavaria by the Franconian Jura. In the east, the Fichtel Mountains form the border; in the north are Franconian Forest, the Thuringian Forest, the Rhön Mountains and the Spessart form a kind of natural barrier. To the west are the Franconian Heights and the Swabian-Franconian Forest. In the Franconian part of South Hesse is the Odenwald. Parts of the southern Thuringian Forest border on Franconia. The most important hill ranges in the interior of the region are the Steigerwald and the Franconian Jura with their sub-ranges of Hahnenkamm and Franconian Switzerland. The highest mountain in Franconia is the Schneeberg in the Fichtel Mountains which is . Other well-known mountains include the Ochsenkopf (1,024m), the Kreuzberg (927.8m) and the Hesselberg (689.4m). The outliers of the region include the Hesselberg and the Gleichberge. The lowest point in Franconia is the water level of the River Main in Kahl which lies at a height of 100 metres above sea level.
In addition to the hill and mountain ranges, there are also several very level areas, including the Middle Franconian Basin and the Hohenlohe Plain. In the south of Franconia are smaller parts of the flat Nördlinger Ries, one of the best preserved impact craters on earth.
Forests, reserves, flora and fauna
Franconia's flora is dominated by deciduous and coniferous forests. Natural forests in Franconia occur mainly in the ranges of the Spessart, Franconian Forest, Odenwald and Steigerwald. The Nuremberg Reichswald is another great forest, located within the metropolitan region of Nuremberg. Other large areas of forest in the region are the Mönchswald, the Reichsforst in the Fichtel Mountains and the Selb Forest. In the river valleys along the Main and Tauber, the countryside was developed for viticulture. In Spessart there are great oak forests. Also widespread are calcareous grasslands, extensively used pastures on very oligotrophic, poor sites. In particular, the southern Franconian Jura, with the Altmühl Valley, is characterized by poor grassland of this type. Many of these places have been designated as a protected areas.
Franconia has several regions with sandy habitats that are unique for south Germany and are protected as the so-called Sand Belt of Franconia or Sandachse Franken. When the Altmühlsee reservoir was built, a bird island was created and designated as a nature reserve where a variety of birds nest. Another important reserve is the Black Moor in the Rhön, which is one of the most important bog areas in Central Europe. A well known reserve is the Luisenburg Rock Labyrinth at Wunsiedel, a felsenmeer of granite blocks up to several metres across. The establishment of the first Franconian national park in the Steigerwald caused controversy and its designation was rejected in July 2011 by the Bavarian government. The reason was the negative attitude of local population. Conservationists are now demanding protection for parts of the Steigerwald by nominating it for a World Heritage Site. There are several nature parks in Franconia, including the Altmühl Valley Nature Park, which, since 1969, has been one of the largest in Germany.
Other nature parks are the Swabian-Franconian Forest Nature Park in Baden-Württemberg, and the nature parks of Bavarian Rhön, Fichtel Mountains, Franconian Heights, Franconian Forest, Franconian Switzerland-Veldenstein Forest, Haßberge, Spessart and Steigerwald in Bavaria, as well as the Bergstraße-Odenwald Nature Park which straddles Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse. Nature parks cover almost half the area of Franconia.
In 1991 UNESCO recognised the Rhön as a biosphere reserve. Among the most picturesque geotopes in Bavaria, are the Franconian sites of Fossa Carolina, the Twelve Apostle Rocks (Zwölf-Apostel-Felsen), the Ehrenbürg, the cave ruins of Riesenburg and the lake of Frickenhäuser See. The European Bird Reserves in Franconia are found mainly in uplands like the Steigerwald, in large forests like Nuremberg's Imperial Forest or along rivers like the Altmühl. There are also numerous Special Areas of Conservation and protected landscapes. In Franconia there are very many tufas, raised stream beds near river sources within the karst landscape that are known as 'stone runnels' (Steinerne Rinnen). There are protected examples at Heidenheim and Wolfsbronn.
Like large parts of Germany, Franconia only has a few large species of wild animal. Forest dwellers include various species of marten, fallow deer, red deer, roe deer, wild boar and fox. In natural areas such as the Fichtel mountains there are populations of lynx and capercaillie, and beaver and otter have grown in numbers. There are occasional sightings of animals that had long been extinct in Central Europe, for example, the wolf.
Only in the extreme northeast of Franconia and in the Spessart are there Variscan outcrops of the crystalline basement, which were uplifted from below the surface when the Alps exerted a northwards-oriented pressure. These are rocks of pre-Permian vintage, which were folded during various stages of Variscan orogeny in the Late Palaeozoic - before about 380 to 300 million years ago - and, in places, were metamorphosed under high pressure and temperature or were crystallized by ascending magma in the Earth's crust. Rocks which were unchanged or only lightly metamorphosed, because they had been deformed at shallow crustal depths, include the Lower Carboniferous shale and greywacke of Franconian Forest. The Fichtel mountains, the Münchberg Plateau and the Spessart, by contrast, have more metamorphic rocks (phyllite, schist, amphibolite, gneiss). The Fichtel mountains are also characterized by large granite bodies, called post-kinematic plutons which, in the late phase of Variscan orogeny, intruded into the metamorphic rocks. In most cases these are S-type granites whose melting was caused by heated-up sedimentary rocks sunk deep into the Earth's crust. While the Fichtel and Franconian Forest can be assigned to the Saxo-Thuringian Zone of Central European Variscan orogeny, the Spessart belongs to the Central German Crystalline Zone. The Münchberg mass is variously attributed to the Saxo-Thuringian or Moldanubian Zones.
A substantially larger part of the shallow subsurface in Franconia comprises Mesozoic, unmetamorphosed, unfolded rocks of the South German Scarplands. The regional geological element of the South German Scarplands is the Franconian Platform (Süddeutsche Großscholle). At the so-called Franconian Line, a significant fault line, the Saxo-Thuringian-Moldanubian basement was uplifted in places up to 2000 m above the Franconian Platform. The western two-thirds of Franconia is dominated by the Triassic with its sandstones, siltstones and claystones (so-called siliciclastics) of the bunter sandstone; the limestones and marls of the Muschelkalk and the mixed, but predominantly siliciclastic, sedimentary rocks of the Keuper. In the Rhön, the Triassic rocks are overlain and intruded by volcanic rock (basalts, basanites, phonolites and trachytes) of the Tertiary. The eastern third of Franconia is dominated by the Jurassic rocks of the Franconian Jura, with the dark shales of the Black Jura, the shales and ferruginous sandstones of the Brown Jura and, the weathering-resistant limestones and dolomitic rocks of the White Jura, which stand out from the landscape and form the actual ridge of the Franconian Jura itself. In the Jura, mostly siliciclastic sedimentary rocks formed the in the Cretaceous have survived.
The Mesozoic sediments have been deposited in largescale basin areas. During the Triassic, the Franconian part of these depressions was often part of the mainland, in the Jurassic it was covered for most of the time by a marginal sea of the western Tethys Ocean. At the time when the limestones and dolomites of the White Jura were being deposited, this sea was divided into sponge reefs and intervening lagoons. The reef bodies and the fine-grained lagoon limestones and marls are the material from which the majority of the Franconian Jura is composed today. Following a drop in the sea level towards the end of the Upper Jurassic, larger areas also became part of the mainland at the beginning of the subsequent Cretaceous period. During the Upper Cretaceous, the sea advanced again up to the area of the Franconian Jura. At the end of the Cretaceous, the sea then retreated again from the region. In addition, large parts of South and Central Germany experienced a general uplift -or in areas where the basement had broken through a substantial uplift - the course of formation of the Alps during the Tertiary. Since then, Franconia has been mainly influenced by erosion and weathering (especially in the Jura in the form of karst), which has ultimately led to formation of today's landscapes.
The oldest macrofossils in Franconia, which are also the oldest in Bavaria, are archaeocyatha, sponge-like, goblet-shaped marine organisms, which were discovered in 2013 in a limestone block of Late Lower Cambrian age, about 520 million years old. The block comes from the vicinity Schwarzenbach am Wald from the so-called Heinersreuth Block Conglomerate (Heinersreuther Blockkonglomerat), a Lower Carboniferous wildflysch. However, the aforementioned archaeocyathids are not three-dimensional fossils, but two-dimensional thin sections. These thin sections had already been prepared and investigated in the 1970s but the archaeocyathids among them were apparently overlooked at that time.
Better known and more highly respected fossil finds in Franconia come from the unfolded sedimentary rocks of the Triassic and Jurassic. The bunter sandstone, however, only has a relatively small number of preserved whole fossils. Much more commonly, it contains trace fossils, especially the tetrapod footprints of Chirotherium. The type locality for these animal tracks is Hildburghausen in the Thuringian part of Franconia, where it occurs in the so-called Thuringian Chirotherium Sandstone (Thüringer Chirotheriensandstein, main Middle Bunter Sandstone). Chirotherium is also found in the Bavarian and Württemberg parts of Franconia. Sites include Aura near Bad Kissingen, Karbach, Gambach and Külsheim. There the deposits are somewhat younger (Upper Bunter Sandstone), and the corresponding stratigraphic interval is called the Franconian Chirotherium Beds (Fränkische Chirotherienschichten). Among the less significant body fossil records of vertebrates are the procolophonid Anomoiodon liliensterni from Reurieth in the Thuringian part of Franconia and Koiloskiosaurus coburgiensis from Mittelberg near Coburg, both from the Thuringian Chirotherium Sandstone, and the Temnospondyle Mastodonsaurus ingens (possibly identical with the mastodonsaurus, Heptasaurus cappelensis) from the Upper Bunter at Gambach.
As early as the first decade of the 19th century George, Count of Münster began systematic fossil gathering and digs and in the Upper Muschelkalk at Bayreuth. For example, the Oschenberg hill near Laineck became the type locality of two relatively well-known marine reptiles of the Triassic period, later found in other parts of Central Europe: the "flat tooth lizard", Placodus and the "false lizard", Nothosaurus.
In Franconia's middle Keuper (the Feuerletten) is one of the best known and most common species of dinosaurs of Central Europe: Plateosaurus engelhardti, an early representative of the sauropodomorpha. Its type locality is located at Heroldsberg south of Nuremberg. When the remains of Plateosaurus were first discovered there in 1834, it was the first discovery of a dinosaur on German soil, and this occurred even before the name "dinosauria" was coined. Another important Plateosaurus find in Franconia was made at Ellingen.
Far more famous than Plateosaurus, Placodus and Nothosaurus is the Archaeopteryx, probably the first bird geologically. It was discovered in the southern Franconian Jura, inter alia at the famous fossil site of Solnhofen in the Solnhofen Platform Limestone (Solnhofener Plattenkalk, (Solnhofen-Formation, early Tithonian, Upper Jurassic). In addition to Archaeopteryx, in the very fine-grained, laminated lagoon limestones are the pterosaur Pterodactylus and various bony fishes as well as numerous extremely detailed examples of invertebrates e.g. feather stars and dragonflies. Eichstätt is the other "big" and similarly famous fossil locality in the Solnhofen Formation, situated on the southern edge of the Jura in Upper Bavaria. Here, as well as Archaeopteryx, the theropod dinosaurs, Compsognathus and Juravenator , were found.
An inglorious episode in the history of paleontology took place in Franconia: fake fossils, known as Beringer's Lying Stones, were acquired in the 1720s by Würzburg doctor and naturalist, Johann Beringer, for a lot of money and then described in a monograph, along with genuine fossils from the Würzburg area. However, it is not entirely clear whether the Beringer forgeries were actually planted or whether he himself was responsible for the fraud.
Franconia has a humid cool temperate transitional climate, which is neither very continental nor very maritime. The average monthly temperatures vary depending on the area between about -1 to -2 °C in January and 17 to 19 °C in August, but may reach a peak of about 35 °C for a few days in the summer, especially in the large cities. The climate of Franconia is sunny and relatively warm. For part of the summer, for example, Lower Franconia is one the sunniest areas in Germany. Daily temperatures in the Bavarian part of Franconia are an average of 0.1 °C higher than the average for Bavaria as a whole. Relatively less rain falls in Franconia, and likewise in the rest of North Bavaria rain than is usual for its geographic location; even summer storms are often less powerful than in other areas of South Germany. In southern Bavaria about 2,000 mm of precipitation falls annually and almost three times as much as in parts of Franconia (about 500–900 mm) in the rain shadow of the Spessart, Rhön and Odenwald.
Quality of life
Franconia, as part of Germany, has a high quality of life. In the Worldwide Quality of Living Survey by Mercer in 2010, the city of Nuremberg was one of the top 25 cities in the world in terms of quality of life and came sixth in Germany. In environmental ranking Nuremberg came thirteenth in the world and was the best German city In a survey by the German magazine, Focus, on quality of life in 2014, the counties of Eichstätt and Fürth were among the top positions in the table. In the Glücksatlas by Deutsche Post Franconia achieved some of the highest scores, but the region slipped in 2013 to 13th place out of 19.
Franconia is named after the Franks, a Germanic tribe who conquered most of Western Europe by the middle of the 8th century. It is likely that Franconia was the homeland of the Franks (indeed in German, Franken is used for both modern day Franconians and the historical Franks). Until the 6th century AD, the region of today's Franconia was probably dominated by Alamanni and Thuringians. After the Frankish triumphs over both tribes around 507 and 529–534, most parts were occupied by the Franks.
Around the 9th century Frankish identity gradually changed from an ethnic identity to a national identity. The original ethnic Franks ceased to be called by others and themselves Franks, whereas certain groups of people who were not Franks but were mostly ruled by Frankish nobility now began to use it as a term to describe their respective land and people. At the beginning of the 10th century a Duchy of Franconia (German: Herzogtum Franken) was established within East Francia, which comprised modern Hesse, Palatinate, parts of Baden-Württemberg and most of today's Franconia. These areas had been dominated and settled by the Burgundians and the Alemanni before being removed and resettled much further south around Switzerland. The vacuum left may have been resettled then by some Frankish nobles with some more or less numerous retainers from their original core area. After the dissolution of the so-called Stem duchy of Franconia, the Holy Roman Emperors created the Franconian Circle (German Fränkischer Reichskreis) in 1500 to embrace the principalities that grew out of the eastern half of the former duchy. The territory of the Franconian Circle roughly corresponds with modern Franconia. The title of a Duke of Franconia was claimed by the Würzburg bishops until 1803 and by the kings of Bavaria until 1918.
Today, only two European regions continue to be associated with the Franks: the French province of Île-de-France, originally the Western Franks' seat of power; and the Ripuarian Frankish dynasty's adopted homeland, modern Franconia. Examples of Franconian cities founded by Frankish noblemen are Würzburg, first mentioned in the 7th century, Ansbach, first mentioned in 748, and Weissenburg, founded in the 7th century.
Early history and Antiquity
Fossil finds show that the region was already settled by primitive man, Homo erectus, in the middle Ice Age about 600,000 years ago. Probably the oldest human remains in the Bavarian part of Franconia were found in the cave ruins of Hunas at Pommelsbrunn in the county of Nuremberg Land. In the late Bronze Age, the region was probably only sparsely inhabited, as few noble metals occur here and the soils are only moderately fertile. In the subsequent Iron Age (from about 800 B.C.) the Celts become the first nation to be discernible in the region. In northern Franconia they built a chain of hill fort as a line of defence against the Germanii advancing from the north. On the Staffelberg they built a powerful settlement, to which Ptolemy the name oppidum Menosgada, and on the Gleichberge is the largest surviving oppidum in Central Germany, the Steinsburg. With the increased expansion of Rome in the first century B.C. and the simultaneous advance of the Elbe Germanic tribes from the north, the Celtic culture begain to fall into decline. The southern parts of present-day Franconia soon fell under Roman control; however, most of the region remained in Free Germania. Initially Rome tried extend its direct influence far to the northeast; in the longer term, however, the Germanic-Roman frontier formed further southwest.
Under the emperors, Domitian (81-96), Trajan (98-117) and Hadrian (117-138), the Rhaetian Limes was built as a border facing the Germanic tribes to the north. This defensive line ran through the south of Franconia and described an arc across the region whose northernmost point lay at present-day Gunzenhausen. To protect it, the Romans built several forts like Biriciana at Weißenburg, but by the mid-third century, the border could no longer be maintained and by 250 A.D. the Alemanni occupied the areas up to the Danube. Fortified settlements such as the Gelbe Bürg at Dittenheim controlled the new areas. More such Gau forts have been detected north of the former Limes as well. To which tribe their occupants belonged is unknown in most cases. However, it is likely that it was mainly Alemanni and Juthungi in especially in the south. By contrast, it was the Burgundians who settled on the Lower and Middle Main. Many of these hill forts appear to have been destroyed, however, no later than 500 A.D. The reasons are not entirely clear, but it could have been as a result of invasions by the Huns which thus triggered the Great Migration. In many cases, however, it was probably conquest by the Franks that spelt the end of these hilltop settlements.
With their victories over the heartlands of the Alamanni and Thuringians in the 6th century, the present region of Franconia also fell to the Franks. After the division of the Frankish Empire, East Francia (Francia orientialis) was formed from the territories of the dioceses of Mainz, Worms, Wurzburg and Speyer. Later, the diocese of Bamberg was added. In the 7th century, the Slavs started to populate the northeastern parts of the region from the east, because the area of today's Upper Franconia was very sparsely populated (Bavaria Slavica). However, in the 10th and 11th centuries, they largely gave up their own language and cultural tradition. The majority of the population of Franconia was pagan well into the Early Middle Ages, The first people to spread the Christian faith strongly were wandering Irish Anglo-Saxon monks in the early 7th century. Saint Kilian, who together with his companions, Saint Colman and Saint Totnan are considered to be the apostles to the Franks, suffering martyrdom in Würzburg in the late 7th century, probably did not encounter any pagans in the ducal court. It was probably Saint Boniface who carried the Christian mission deep into the heart of the ordinary population of Franconia.
In the mid-9th century the tribal Duchy of Franconia emerged, one of the five tribal or stem duchies of East Francia. The territory of the stem duchy was far bigger than modern Franconia and covered the whole of present-day Hesse, northern Baden-Württemberg, southern Thuringia, large parts of Rhineland-Palatinate and parts of the Franconian provinces in Bavaria. It extended as far west as Speyer, Mainz, and Worms (west of the Rhine) and even included Frankfurt ("ford of the Franks"). In the early 10th century, the Babenbergs and Conradines fought for power in Franconia. Ultimately this discord led to the Babenberg Feud which was fuelled and controlled by the crown. The outcome of this feud meant the loss of power for the Babenbergs, but indirectly resulted in the Conradines winning the crown of East Francia. Sometime around 906, Conrad succeeded in establishing his ducal hegemony over Franconia, but when the direct Carolingian male line failed in 911, Conrad was acclaimed King of the Germans, largely because of his weak position in his own duchy. Franconia, like Alamannia was fairly fragmented and the duke's position was often disputed between the chief families. Conrad had granted Franconia to his brother Eberhard on his succession, but when Eberhard rebelled against Otto I in 938, he was deposed from his duchy, which disintegrated in 939 on Eberhard's death into West or Rhenish Franconia (Francia Rhenensis), and East Francia (Francia Orientalis) and was directly subordinated to the Reich. Only after that was the former Francia orientalis considered to be under the sphere of the bishops of Würzburg as the true Franconia, its territory gradually shrinking to its present area.
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of parts of present-day Upper and Middle Franconia, who were not under the control of Würzburg, probably also considered themselves to be Franks at that time, and certainly their dialect distinguished them from the inhabitants of Bavaria and Swabia.
Unlike the other stem duchies, Franconia became the homeland and power base of East Frankish and German kings after the Ottonians died out in 1024. As a result, in the High Middle Ages, the region did not become a strong regional force such as those which formed in Saxony, Bavaria and Swabia. In 1007, the later canonized Henry II founded the Bishopric of Bamberg and endowed it with rich estates. Bamberg became a favoured Pfalz and an important centre of the Empire. Because parts of the Bishopric of Würzburg also fell to Bamberg, Würzburg was enfeoffed several royal estates by King Henry II by way of compensation.
From the 12th century Nuremberg Castle was the the seat of the Burgraviate of Nuremberg. The burgraviate was ruled from about 1190 by the Zollerns, the Franconian line of the later House of Hohenzollern, which provided the German emperors of the 19th and 20th century. Under the Hohenstaufen kings, Conrad III and Frederick Barbarossa, Franconia became the centre of power in the Empire. During the time when there was no emperor, the Interregnum (1254-1273), some territorial princes became ever more powerful. After the Interregnum, however, the rulers succeeded in re-establishing a stronger royal lordship in Franconia. Franconia soon played an important role again for the monarchy at the time of Rudolf of Habsburg; the itineraries of his successors showing their preference for the Rhine-Main region. In 1376 the Swabian League of Cities was founded and was joined later by several Franconian imperial cities. During the 13th century the Teutonic Order was formed, taking over its first possession in Franconia in 1209, the Bailiwick of Franconia. The foundation of many schools and hospitals and the construction of numerous churches and castles in this area goes back to the work of this Roman Catholic military order. The residence place of the bailiwick was at Ellingen until 1789 when it was transferred to today's Bad Mergentheim. Other orders such as the Knights Templar could not gain a foothold in Franconia; the Order of St. John worked in the Bishopric of Würzburg and had short term commands.
Successor states of East Francia
As of the 13th century, the following states, among others, had formed in the territory of the former Duchy:
Early Modern Period
On 2 July 1500 during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I, as part of the Imperial Reform Movement, the Empire was divided into Imperial Circles. This led in 1512 to the formation of the Franconian Circle. Seen from a modern perspective, the Franconian Circle may be viewed as an important basis for the sense of a common Franconian identity that exists today. The Franconian Circle also shaped the geographical limits of the present-day Franconia. In the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, the Imperial Circle was severely affected by Kleinstaaterei, the patchwork of tiny states in this region of Germany. As during the late Middle Ages, the bishops of Würzburg used the nominal title of Duke of Franconia during the time of the Imperial Circle. In 1559, the Franconian Circle was given jurisdiction over coinage (Münzaufsicht) and, in 1572, was the only Circle to issue its own police ordinance.
Members of the Franconian Circle included the imperial cities, the prince-bishoprics, the Bailiwick of Franconia of the Teutonic Order and several counties. The Imperial Knights with their tiny territories, of which there was a particularly large number in Franconia, were outside the Circle assembly and, until 1806, formed the Franconian Knights Circle (Fränkischer Ritterkreis) consisting of six Knights' Cantons. Because the extent of Franconia, already referred to above, is disputed, there were many areas that might be counted as part of Franconia today, that lay outside the Franconian Circle. For example, the area of Aschaffenburg belonged to Electoral Mainz and was a part of the Electoral Rhenish Circle, the area of Coburg belonged to the Upper Saxon Circle and the Heilbronn area to the Swabian Circle. In the 16th century, the College of Franconian Counts was founded to represent the interests of the counts in Franconia.
Later Modern Period
Most of modern-day Franconia became part of Bavaria in 1803 thanks to Bavaria's alliance with Napoleon. Culturally it is in many ways different from Bavaria proper ("Altbayern", Old Bavaria), however. The ancient name was resurrected in 1837 by Ludwig I of Bavaria. During the Nazi period, Bavaria was broken up into several different Gaue, including Franconia and Main-Franconia.
While Old Bavaria is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, Franconia is a mixed area. Lower Franconia and the western half of Upper Franconia (Bamberg, Lichtenfels, Kronach) is predominantly Catholic, while most of Middle and the eastern half of Upper Franconia (Bayreuth, Hof, Kulmbach) are predominantly Protestant (Evangelical Church in Germany). The city of Fürth in Middle Franconia historically (before the Nazi era) had a large Jewish population; Henry Kissinger was born there.
A large part of the population of Franconia consider themselves Franconians (Franken, in German homonymous with the name of the historical Franks), a sub-ethnic group of the German people alongside Alemanni, Swabians, Bavarians, Thuringians and Saxons. Such an ethnic identity is generally not shared by other parts of the Franconian-speaking area (members of which may identify as Rhine-Franconians (Rheinfranken) and Moselle-Franconians (Moselfranken)).
East Franconian German, the dialect spoken in Franconia, is very different from the Austro-Bavarian dialect. Most Franconians do not call themselves Bavarians, but their insistence on this point is generally a lighthearted matter in modern times. Even though there is no Franconian state, red and white are regarded as the state colours (Landesfarben) of Franconia.
Franconia has almost 300 small breweries. The northwestern parts, the areas around river Main called Franconian wine region also produce a lot of wine. Food typical for the region includes Bratwurst (especially the famous small Nuremberger Bratwurst), Schäuferla (stewed pork shoulder), Sauerbraten, dumplings, potato salad (typically made with broth), fried carp, Grupfder (seasoned cheese spread), Presssack (a type of Head cheese: pressed or jellied pork trimmings, like tongue, cheeks, etc.). Lebkuchen are a traditional type of biscuit, and Küchla is a sort of sweet fried dough.
Three Nuremberger Bratwürste in a roll (Drei im Weckla)
Schlenkerla Rauchbier straight from the cask
Fried Carp with beer and salad
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- Bezirk of Lower Franconia
- Government of Lower Franconia
- Bezirk of Middle Franconia
- Government of Middle Franconia
- Bezirk of Upper Franconia
- Government of Upper Franconia English pages available
- The Baden-Württemberg region of Heilbronn-Franken
- Dukes of Franconia
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